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The Cult of Busy-ness

NC’s Stay at Home order expires on May 8th, and we go into phase 1 of trying to reopen. I just finally got used to this new way of life, I don’t know that I’m ready. Honestly, I’m probably not doing anything different than what I’m doing already. The phase 1 orders don’t look much different than what we are doing right now, except that I think some retail stores, like clothing stores, that had previously closed, will be able to open again.

I have created a little routine for myself here. I like it more, honestly, than I liked my life before. I stay busy, the house is cleaner than it has ever been, the yard looks better than it ever has, the dog gets more walks, shit… I’m cleaner than I’ve ever been. I’ve been flossing literally every single day. I’ve been taking vitamins. I’ve been eating square meals regularly and walking at least once a day. I do something challenging (like digging a vegetable bed, or hauling some junk) every day to keep myself strong. I’ve never been one who enjoyed working out, so these types of things are how I stay fit. I don’t really want it to go back to the way it was for me before, and I don’t think that I’m going to.

I have plenty of clothes. I finally located all of them (I have WAY TOO MANY). I don’t need to go clothes shopping. I can order anything I need or get it locally, literally anything I can think of within reason. I have time to think now, and I get things done. I don’t need to go to a bar, I can simply go see a friend. I got over the bar thing really fast. I’ve learned to cook so many new things, about once a week we get the urge to go to get some kind of take-out, like a treat. That take-out is typically very modest, I’m talking Snoopy’s or Moe Joes. Something I would definitely be willing to spring for is descent sushi. I can roll some, but mine is just not the same.

I wake up, have my coffee on the porch, feed all of the animals, feed the chickens, and water all of my baby plants. Then I water all of the garden beds. Then I usually start some kind of weeding/digging/planting project. After that, I eat lunch. If there are errands to run, I do those. Then I put all of that stuff away or whatever needs doing with it. Next I start kind of planning for dinner. I call a friend or family member. Today I even sat in the hammock and read! Sometimes I write letters to people.

Then I make dinner and clean everything up- dishes never sit in this house anymore. I sweep the floors, because pet hair is constant. I floss my teeth when I can’t think of what to do next and remember to take my vitamins because my brain isn’t packed full of busy bullshit. I tackle something that is disorganized because I simply had not noticed it yet. I don’t rush through it because I don’t have to. All of the laundry is done and put in its place. All of the towels are clean. Sheets are washed and changed on a mental schedule, and my office is finally organized into something that I can work in.

As I settle into the evening, Elliot and I might watch something together. My hands take a beating from working outside, so I strip off old, clear nail polish and apply a new coat, sometimes getting daring with glitter and little decals- can’t get too crazy on it, it will all be ruined in a day or two with all that digging in the dirt, but then again, what does that matter? I have time in the evenings to fix it, if it’s important to me. I take a shower, no need to rush, but I tend to take short showers anyway compared to my husband, “King of the 30 minute shower”. I put on something clean and comfortable. Elliot goes to bed and I take over the office and write, research, and learn to do new things. I plan to try something new tomorrow. I go to bed and repeat.

It’s not a crazy life, but man, it’s a better one than I’ve had in years. I don’t think that I’ve checked so many wellness boxes in one day in my entire adult life. I’ve just always been too busy, and when I wasn’t “too busy”, I was too depressed about not being “too busy” to enjoy what I had. I didn’t even know how to live a day to day life that didn’t require me being pulled in 4 different directions while needing to physically be in 2 different places at the same time. I just simply didn’t know what that could feel like. I would work hard, then play hard, and everything else got smooshed, condensed in between, typically with “personal wellness” taking the bottom rung and the least amount of space.

In my downtime, I felt like I had to go socialize- often times because jobs I’ve had most of my life required it to some degree. I can still be social. I’m a great messenger person. I do actually reply to texts. I can even talk on the phone or in person. If I have your address, you may even get a real piece of mail when I feel froggy, but I am absolutely over being squished into a wall, dick to ass, in a music venue. (I’ve sort of been over that, now I’m real over it).

I’m enjoying getting exactly what I want at smaller places, instead of braving the grocery store- fish markets are awesome. The Farmer’s Market is awesome. Individual growers, bakers, and local artisans are awesome. I’ll also tell you this, I have not stepped foot inside a Wal-mart or a Target since this all started. Not to be snobby, I haven’t gone to Costco either and you couldn’t pay me to go in Wegman’s. Those big ass places full of humans scare the fuck out of me right now. I would rather just go to the Walgreens at Cameron Village for shampoo, toilet paper, and pain reliever- so fewer people, in and out quickly. That’s where it’s at for me.

I think I’ve found my “new normal”, and I think I really like my “new normal”.  I like ME better this way, not just the world that I’ve been somewhat forced to create (even though it was really here the whole time), but the person I am while being a part of this world.  I think I’ve retained more information, lived in the moment more, and had my life more organized in the past few weeks that I definitely have in the past 10 years.  No matter how far they “reopen NC”, I don’t think that I’m going to be fully participating in all of that anymore.

The Ice Cream Maker

About a month ago, a neighbor was cleaning out their house and had a TON of stuff on the side of the street, offered up for free.  Lots of small appliances, still in the box.  That’s where I found the ice cream maker.

It was a crank handle, in a box that looked absolutely vintage.  Elliot looked up the patent, which was granted in 1984.  The box looks like it came from 1984.  It works perfectly.  Now I’m obsessed with making ice cream- I’ve never done it before.  So far I’ve made strawberry, and banana peanut butter.  It’s excellent stuff.  Here’s the recipe I’m using:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract (didn’t use for the banana peanut butter)
  • 1 pint of whatever you’re flavoring it with

 

  • blend fruit, sugar, milk, salt and vanilla extract in a blender to the consistency that you desire.
  • add heavy whipping cream and burst no longer than 10 seconds
  • pour mixture into ice cream maker and process (or crank, like I do), for however long directions say (for mine it is about 20 minutes, stirring every 2-3 minutes).

For my favorite video out of everything I searched click here and watch the process.

I want to make more, but we really shouldn’t have that many pints in our freezer, especially since ice cream is Elliot’s kryptonite.  The strawberry is delicious, and the banana/peanut butter is even creamier, probably due to the oil (strawberries have more water to freeze in the mix).  If you haven’t had the luck of finding an ice cream maker on the side of the road, YouTube has several tutorials about how to make it using a standing mixer, heavy cream, and a can of condensed milk, so check those out (typically under “ice cream with 2 ingredients”).

Stay sane, try something new if you can, and if you need comfort food, I can rush you a pint :).

 

March Reading List

The March Reading list is my last reading list for a while.  After we became quarantined, I simply stopped being able to read.  I have not a single book for April, and a pile of books that I intended to read, but I’m not there yet.  Hopefully, I did enough reading for the first 3 months of 2020 to hold me for a couple of months until I can get my head back into the reading game.  Right now I’m looking up tons of recipes and other useful ways to keep my hands busy.

1.) The Gathering Storm- Robert Jordan

2.) Towers of Midnight- Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

3.) A Memory of Light- Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

4.) New Spring- Robert Jordan

5.) Warrior of the Altaii- Robert Jordan

6.) When Katie Met Cassidy- Camille Perri

7.) Every Wild Heart- Meg Donohue

8.) Second Sister- Chan Ho-Kei

9.) The Boatman’s Daughter

10.) Bluebird Bluebird- Attica Locke

11.) The Supremes Sing the Happy Heartache Blues- Edward Kelsey Moore

February Reading List

In an attempt to catch up my reading lists, here we are, publishing my Feb. list in May.

1.) When you are Engulfed in Flames- David Sedaris

2.) The Talented Ribbons- Ladee Hubbard

3.) Today Will Be Different- Maria Semple

4.) Where the Line Bleeds- Jesmyn Ward

5.) What it is: Race, Family and One Thinking Black Man’s Blues- Clifford Thompson

6.) How to Party with an Infant- Kaui Hart Hemmings

7.) The Black Cathedral- Marcial Gala

8.) Disgruntled- Asali Solomon

9.) Heaven, My Home- Attica Locke

10.) Heads of the Colored People- Nafissa Thompson-Spires

11.) Secondhand Souls- Christopher Moore

12.) The Hike- Drew Magary

13.) Heart of Junk- Luke Geddes

14.) Copycat- Kimberla Lawsome-R0by

15.) Hiding in Plain Sight- Nuruddin Farah

16.) Unsheltered- Barbara Kingsolver

17.) Crossroads of Twilight- Robert Jordan

18.) Knife of Dreams- Robert Jordan

Week 1: No Smoking

I cannot tell you how many times I have quit smoking.

I’ve done it cold turkey before, once when I was 22, multiple times when I was 28, again when I turned 30.  Those first 3 days were pure hell.  Day 2 is typically the day that I lock myself in the bathroom to scream and cry.  Remember, we’re in quarantine, and my poor husband has to put up with this.  I chose to use the patch this time around because I would like to still be married when this is all over, and the patch has some advantages, namely, allowing you to change your daily habits while allowing your body to heal.  Then you step down your addiction, step by step, all while creating new life patterns.

How has it been?  Pretty great, actually!  I’ve been more productive in the past week then I think I’ve been in the past 6 months.  I have to have a lot to do with my hands whenever I quit.  Quarantine had made me into a 2 pack a day smoker.  That’s 200 minutes a day.  Sure, you can do some other things WHILE you smoke, like answer email, or scroll through news articles or social media, but there is plenty that you can’t get done with a cigarette in your mouth.  Personally, I know that the only way I am going to be successful is to stay away from smoking triggers and see the entire step down nicotine program all of the way through.  This might be my best chance.

After just a week of not smoking, I have noticed some changes.  I don’t cough as much.  I still cough and will probably have one for months while my throat and lungs heal, but it is definitely less.  I am eating better.  Cigarettes make it so that you don’t feel hungry.  They also make me feel kind of queasy sometimes.  I’ve noticed already that I am less winded doing tasks that require endurance (long walks, steps, digging in the garden); I’m looking forward to this improving more.  It’s also nice to not have my hands smell like smoke all of the time.  I used to wash my hands after every smoke break because I couldn’t even stand the second-hand smoke smell.  Now I just have to wash them all the time because of the plague, constant cooking, digging in the dirt, and other more pleasant reasons.

I have spent this week kicking ass.  My husband got me a wet stone, and I spent the first day of my non-smoking existence sharpening every knife in the house.  It’s a GREAT way to keep your hands busy, and learn a new skill if you’ve never sharpened a knife.  Then I called my mom and sharpened all of her knives as well.  I’ve been learning knife skills and French cooking techniques and terms through online lessons.  I’ve cooked more new and interesting things in the past week than I have attempted in the past year.  Together, my husband and I, have tackled all kinds of languishing organizational projects throughout the house, as well as this crazy part of the back yard that I thought we would never do.  I’ve planted out all of the seedlings that are ready and kept everything watered.  I’ve been keeping on top of things.

The most important thing for me right now is to stay busy and establish a routine.  I also keep a “To Do” list.  When I think of a project or an errand, it goes on that list.  Each day, unfinished business carries on to the next list and new things are added.  I have also committed to actually eating 3 meals a day.  I have literally never eaten 3 meals a day in my adult life, but as the past 2 years wore on into a quarantine situation, I found myself eating about 1 meal- every other day.  It was bad.  I need energy to be able to stay busy, and I simply had NO ENERGY.  My life had pretty much de-evolved into sitting on the porch with a cigarette in one hand, a cocktail in the other, and the phone in my lap. ALL DAY.  Sadness was overtaking me, and something had to be done.  I had to kick myself in my own ass.

I’m glad I’m doing this.  The past week has been more vivid, enjoyable, and generally pleasant than I could have ever believed.  I remind myself every day that nothing has to be rushed through (it’s not like I have any reason to rush right now, I’m unemployed, just like most of my friends and family are).  I can enjoy each thing for what it is.  I’ve spent so much of my life rushing from one thing to another, every second optimized, just for the “pleasure” of being able to sit down with a beer and a cigarette, and I definitely blame the “cult of busy-ness” for that.  My mind has been trained to rush EVERYTHING.  If it can’t be rushed, then it is to be ignored until there “is time”.  Well, now is the time.  I’m glad to be rid of the rush, and I’m glad to be on the path of not being a slave to stimulants that were created to help me “rush”.  Let’s see what I can do with week 2!

 

Reading List: January 2020

My New Years Resolution (one of them), was to read more books.  Every month I’ll be posting books I’ve read, most of which, can be found at Cameron Village Library.  Some of these books were recommendations, others I simply found browsing the stacks.

January 2020 Reading List

  1. “Everyone in Silco” – Jim Monroe
  2. “The Age of Anxiety” – Pete Townsend
  3. “Mrs. Everything”- Jennifer Wiener
  4. “Small Great Things”- Jodi Picoult
  5. “Wildlife” – Richard Ford
  6. “The Vain Conversation” – Anthony Grooms
  7. “Delicious Foods” – James Hannah
  8. “Welcome to Braggville” – T. Geranimo Johnson
  9. “A Spark of Light” – Jodi Picoult”
  10. “Where the Crawdads Sing” – Delia Owens
  11. “The Night Circus” – Erin Morgenstern
  12. “So Much Blue” – Percival Everett
  13. “Anyone” – Charles Soule
  14. “Ruby” – Cynthia Bond
  15. “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”- Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  16. “How To be an Antiracist” – Ibram X. Kendi
  17. “The Purple Swamp Hen” – Penelope Lively
  18. “Calypso” – David Sedaris”
  19. “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls” – David Sedaris

Moving… it’s a whole thing

No one enjoys moving, and recently, we not only moved, but also moved my sister.  I’m not in a big hurry to do any of that again.  My blog has suffered, the center’s blog has suffered, but now, I think, things are getting more on track.

I’m embracing the letting go of things.  I’m embracing as much minimalism as I can muster.  I’ve been living out of a Rubbermaid container for a couple of weeks, so I know that I can do with less.  The sheer amount of junk that people can collect is pretty wild.  It’s out of control.  My friend, Billy, asked me yesterday if we were having a house-warming party, and I said “I’m afraid that people will bring me stuff”.

In nifty news, I get to go furniture shopping for my birthday this year, so that’s pretty cool.  I haven’t done that in a good while, and all of our livingroom furniture has seen better days.  I purged my shoes.  I purged our kitchen ware.  I’ve purged clothing, and will purge more.  It’s a good feeling, cleaning and clearing out your life.

I haven’t really had time to plan a Halloween costume, though I did get some candy.  I haven’t really cooked much, though I did make our first dinner last night (and the Barbie dream stove works better than I expected).  I also TOTALLY DIDN’T set off the fire alarm (lol).  I haven’t planned a big shindig for my fortieth, but I think buying a house is big enough.  It’s more than most people get, and I feel blessed with it.  I’m pretty excited about Billy being my neighbor.  I’m really in love with the neighborhood cats.  It’s cute, and I know that we’re going to discover EVEN MORE good stuff about living in a new space.

We love our paint colors too, btw :).

Everyone is Freaking Out but Remember… Community.

Today was BUSY at the center.  People were bringing us their things and we were trying to keep up with the latest news.  We had to convince some folks that even though the shelters won’t take couples, they absolutely cannot stay in a tent in the woods during this time.  I got cussed out over the phone for not being able to provide hotel rooms for folks- it was a lot.

We gave a way SO MANY SOCKS today.  Last night was sort of a taste of what is to come.  Blu’s phone was ringing off the hook because people thought that the hurricane had already started, but it was just a typical thunderstorm.  It may have worked to our advantage, because it definitely lit a fire under some butts.  Folks got their meds refilled, just in case.  People gave us important papers to keep.  We have bags of belongings, labeled and placed on top of tables to keep them dry.  We’re definitely doing the best we can here to provide support for everyone.

I had a couple of texts today asking if people could sleep overnight at the center.  We’re pretty sure that it is going to flood because it’s a basement, so I think that’s a bad idea right now.  It floods in parts when it simply rains, much less during a hurricane.  We’re taking precautions by making sure nothing is on the floor and all of the electrical equipment (computers, modems, appliances), are up on a surface and nowhere that they can get wet.

We bought a ticket today for someone who has a friend in Gastonia who is willing to not only let her stay there, but give her a place to stay for an extended period of time.  I feel really good about that because not only will she not be sleeping outside, but she will be with friends who care that she was sleeping outside- I can’t say that about all of our folks for sure.  They grew up in the same group home together, and have been looking for one another.  She got a phone and they found each other this week- this is why Facebook is an amazing tool.  He had no idea that she was living outside, and she had no idea that he was searching for his foster sister.  He just bought a house, and has extended an invitation to her to join his family.  I hope that it works out, for both of them.

Not everyone is so lucky, however, I found out today that a lot of people saw the video that I made yesterday, so that gives me hope that we can keep everyone alive.  We had a lot of new faces today, and I got to speak to a LOT of new folks about what their plans were for the next few days.  It was HECTIC, and we’re going to need some help in the near future, but it’s worth it.  It really is.  If you spend one day with us, you’ll see it too, the joy of a clean pair of socks, a new tent, a hot meal, a clean t-shirt, a bar of soap, connecting with an old friend, all of it.

Hopscotch: It’s not you, it’s me.

Dear Hopscotch,

It’s not you, it’s me.  Last year at this time I was the brand new ED of a struggling little non-profit.  I had Hopscotch tickets.  I hadn’t the energy or the stamina to go to even half of the shows that I wanted to.  At one point I looked at my husband and said “I think I’m too old for this.  I’m not having fun.  I don’t think I can do this next year”.

One year later, my husband had already purchased our tickets, “just in case”, and this week he asked me if my decision had changed any.  It hadn’t.  If anything, one year later, still the ED of a tiny, struggling (but less struggling) non-profit, my answer is more definite.  I simply said, “I can’t do all of that loud and all of those people.  I have enough “loud” and “people” in my life every day.”

Being crammed, dick to ass in Slim’s, watching “Pissed Jeans”, no longer holds the appeal to me that it used to.  Having my bags searched at the Plaza no longer holds much charm.  The yearly dude trying to grind on my butt during a set no longer seems like something I feel like dealing with.  I no longer have the stamina for day drinking.  I can’t really afford to twist my ankle in a hole this year.  Really, I’ve changed, not you, Hopscotch.

I gave my wristband to our friend, Katie, so my husband will have someone to go to show with this year.  This evening I’m looking forward to a hot shower, a nap, and a nice walk with the dog.  Maybe I’ll watch a couple of TED talks or catch up on my reading.  I’ll have a nice cup of herbal tea for my arthritis (lol, but really), and soak in the scent of lavender.  Most of all, I’ll enjoy the fact that I’m not standing, it isn’t hot and sweaty, and it’s not loud.

Drink a tallboy and see a band with a crazy name for me this weekend!

 

 

The Alarm and the Cost of Poverty

We started today 1 person down on staff, so we prepared to be busy.  Then the alarm went off.  This alarm is part of our fire/security system, but specifically, it was a warning that either a breaker tripped or that the transformer was down… except it wasn’t the breaker.  It makes this shrill beeping about every 10 seconds.  It’s loud.  It would drive anyone crazy.  Today it was beeping in a center full of people with all kinds of difficulties.

I tried every phone number on the box, all lead me to tech. support that couldn’t help.  Tried the number on the security panel, disconnected.  Luckily my friend who works for 911 happened to stop by and was able to find out when the last time the alarm was tripped, and who came to set it back.  From there, we actually got a hold of the person we needed to, and could end this hellish beeping that had now plagued us for 2 hours.  It was shaking my nerves.

The story is actually longer and more tedious than that, but I don’t have the energy to write anymore on the subject.  Needless to say, alarm systems are loud and annoying for a reason.  They’re made to make you shake, want to get away from them, and to scare people off.  In the meantime, the needs were great and continuous, and there were moments when I was on the phone, while getting something for someone, while someone else was calling me on the other phone, while the doorbell rang.  It was that kind of day.

I saw my awesome therapist today, and we had a delightful conversation where I recanted this hellish day, and then sang my husband’s praises as a human being for the rest of it.  My therapist does a lot of couple’s counseling and said it was nice to hear that there are couples who are really working out.  I told him that I wouldn’t know how to teach that, but he’s my hero for trying to teach others how to do that.  I feel like too many couples don’t allow each other to be human beings.  Maybe I’m just lucky, and found the perfect one.  As I say, lots of people have husbands, but I have the best one.

I then solved the mystery of “why my registration hasn’t come in the mail”.  The answer to that is: it was time for a new license plate.  I didn’t really  know that was a thing, and no one sent me any kind of notice, but I was glad that I found out and had the cash to pay for it, because it could have been a shock had I not been prepared.  I’m the proud owner of a plate that won’t get me pulled over by being an outdated plate now.  Adulting- level up!

That leads me into this: has anyone ever noticed how incredibly difficult it can be to keep all of your balls in the air as a grown ass person?  The car payments, insurance, maintenance, inspections, plates, registrations, taxes?  The rent/mortgage, insurance, termite inspection, all the bills, stuff break down, taxes?  The career/job, performance review, 24-7 responsibility, deadlines, taxes? The kids, childcare, school, the dog, the cat, the bird, the yard, the trash, the housekeeping, taxes.  How do we all do it?

One thing that I’ve noticed is that it’s easier to keep all of these systems going than it is to lose one and try to get it back.  That’s the cycle of poverty; if you’ve never lived it, it’s built so that you lose one of these things, and it takes heaven and Earth to get it back.  Being poor is incredibly expensive.  We see it with our people all of the time.  Why are homeless people homeless?  Easy, someone steals your stuff at the shelter, and suddenly you’re a person with no ID, birth certificate or social security card.  Then you can’t work until you get it all back, but all of it costs money, that you don’t have, because you can’t work.

Let’s say you have a car.  Now you don’t have a license to drive your car, you get pulled over, you get a ticket for not having a license and whatever else is wrong with your car (like your headlight).  Then you have to pay a fine or go to court.  Both cost money.  If you do neither, you have fines following you around or you get a “Failure to Appear”, and that costs even more money.  Everything then costs more, and finally you lose your car.  Now you have nothing.  Then the shelter kicks you out for being late for curfew.  Now you really have nothing.

I hear stories like this every single day.  Bank accounts overdrawn that then put a $35 overdraft fee on them, with another fee on top of that, and so the next money you put into your account is gone before you can pay a bill.  Why use the account at all, then?  So you pay to get your check cashed elsewhere, pay extra for the money-order, and pay off the bill that way.  Now you’ve spent an extra $18 to pay a bill, but that’s better than the $45 you owe the bank.

The parameters required for being a functioning member of our capitalistic society are so very small.  You have to be on top of your game 24-7, or have the money to pay for that thing you let slip.  It’s built to make it as hard as humanly possible to succeed, and to then add additional hardship on top of that.  Ever had a credit check and realize you have no credit even though you’ve been paying bills for years?  I have.  It happened to me.  Paying your bills is good, because that just means no credit.  Not paying your bills means bad credit.  Notice how there is a penalty, but no reward?  Borrow a ton of money?  Instant reward on levels.  You get money, and if you pay it back timely, you get credit.  Why does it work that way?

I see people, every day, who just can’t dig out of the hole they’re in.  They had family members who took out credit cards in their names when they were teenagers, maxed them out, then never paid them.  They started life in debt with terrible credit.  They started life disabled, with nothing but a disability check and no one to help care for them.  They started life with a mental illness that alienated the family they did have, and are too young (or too mentally ill) to make it without some serious adult support.  They went to jail as a teen and own money to the courts out the ass.  I see all of these things all of the time.

Know that the decisions you make for your kids can truly make a difference in if they become homeless or not.  If you kick out your argumentative teenager, there is a good chance that the next few decisions they make will define the next decade of their lives.  If you want to simply watch them crash and burn because you “want to be right” SO BAD, then you may actually get your wish, it could happen, but is that truly what you wanted as a parent?  Does that really make you happy?  Did “you show them”?  What if I told you that your little girl was turning tricks for crack?  What if I told you that your son just asked me for clean needles?  What if, in a split second, your withdrawal of general support breaks that young person.  It’s something to think about.